NSW councils tentative on housing affordability package
Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has welcomed NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s ‘promising ideas’ in the state’s new housing affordability package but said the reforms were ‘somewhat light on detail’.
The reforms include stamp duty concessions for first home buyers, changes to the first home buyer’s grant, higher taxes on foreign investors and accelerating council-led rezonings and development application approvals.
“LGNSW congratulates the government on its efforts to do what it can to support housing affordability, and there’s nothing we’d like more to do than to come out and praise their efforts,” LGNSW President Keith Rhoades said.
“Unfortunately until there is more detailed information available it really seems to be a case of the devil will lie in the detail.”
Mr Rhoades said the sector welcomed many components of the package, including the ‘very positive’ move to lift the cap on development contributions to ensure new homes had the necessary infrastructure to support them, like footpaths, roads and parks.
He also cautiously welcomed the announcement of funding of up to $2.5 million for ‘growth priority councils’ to help councils update their Local Environment Plans quicker.
“It’s great news that these ten to 15 councils will be supported to plan for future growth, but we are a little concerned at the suggestion that councils should accelerate the rezoning of land,” Mr Rhoades said.
“Rezoning needs good strategic planning at a local level, and it’s important that we don’t give this up in the pursuit of speed at all costs.”
He said it was unclear whether the government’s new guidelines around protecting the local character of communities would have much force.
However, Mr Rhoades said councils were pleased the government had not moved straight to mandatory independent planning panels for deciding larger development applications.
“These panels work very effectively for some councils, but other councils don’t see the need for them – it really needs to be a matter of local choice.”
Digital marketplace for smart cities
Local councils can now use the Digital Transformation Agency’s (DTA) Digital Marketplace platform to collaborate on smart city projects, including smart lighting, rubbish collection and infrastructure modelling.
The new functionality, which is expected to become permanent, was introduced to help councils find suppliers for the innovative products and services they need to deliver smart city ideas.
“There is a great appetite for innovation within local councils, who are at the forefront of smart city initiatives,” Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor said.
“Already 25 per cent of registered buyers on the Digital Marketplace are local government and there are more than 400 sellers who can provide the digital expertise they need to transform their communities.”
There are already some exciting projects up on the Digital Marketplace, such as Sunshine Coast’s underground waste collection project and Ipswich Council’s 5D data modelling, which brings together streams of data to build a five-dimensional view of the city’s infrastructure.
The Marketplace is supporting the federal government’s Smart Cities Plan and complements the $50 million Smart Cities and Suburbs Program.
Applications for the first round of the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program close on 30 June 2017.
Eight Sydney councils will offer residents free energy advice
Eight Sydney councils will offer free energy advice to residents through the Our Energy Future partnership, going live on World Environment Day, Monday 5 June.
Eight councils are working with Our Energy Future: Inner West, Bayside, City of Canada Bay, Canterbury-Bankstown City, Georges River, City of Parramatta, Randwick City, and City of Sydney.
Our Energy Future (formerly Our Solar Future) will involve an energy advice website, phone line and free, no-obligation quotes on solar and assessment services.
Users can find information such as trusted solar and storage battery retailers and installers and tips on improving the energy efficiency of their homes and workplaces.
For a discounted rate, Our Energy Future experts can also conduct comprehensive energy assessments to offer more tailored advice.
Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (SSROC) President Councillor Sally Betts said she was excited about the launch.
“We’re delighted that Our Energy Future and SSROC have been able to come together with eight councils to deliver financial savings to our local residents,” she said.
Our Energy Future is coordinated by Positive Charge, a not-for-profit social enterprise.
“Our organisation has its foundations in working with local government to reduce emissions and increase the use of renewable and energy efficiency technologies,” said Manager Positive Charge Kate Nicolazzo.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with SSROC to bring this award-winning service to Sydney-region residents,” she said.
SSROC General Manager Namoi Dougall said, “Our Energy Future is a key element of SSROC’s Renewable Energy Master Plan, and will be run by Positive Charge for a 15-month pilot.”